April 13, 2017 (Maunday Thursday) Sermon What Would Jesus Say?

Back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson and others wrote a little document that caused a lot of trouble for them.

The Constitution of the United States began with (among other statements) that God created all men equal.
That was radical stuff that ended up causing them a great suffering, but it was also was part of what changed history.

Yet this thought and sentiment expressed by them was not completely their own original concept.
Long before that, Jesus (who was called the Christ, that is Messiah) implored his followers to follow the same idea. 
When he gathered with them before he was going to experience a great deal of suffering,…he not only told them but he showed them just what he meant.
When Jesus took off his outer garment and knelt down to wash his disciples feet,….he was being more than humble.
Because what he did was usually something the lowly house servant would do for visitors in the home.
But Jesus wanted them to know that, despite his divinity and godly powers, he did not see them as lesser persons.
And he implored them to not see each other in terms of any rank, but to be servants that love one another equally.

Of course, this shocked them all and Peter (as usual) spoke up and objected to the great Jesus exhibiting such humility.
But Jesus, by his example taught them that how they dealt with one another as his followers excluded any ideas of rank.
His death the next day was later understood as the ultimate humble gift of sacrifice for all,…without discrimination.

And yet, while we love to embrace that Jesus died for the least (including you and me)….
its much harder for us to embrace the attitude he promoted to his disciples when he was washing their feet.
We like the concept and love to hold up the equality part of our Constitution as part of what makes our nation great.
But even from the beginning in 1776, that claim and goal has been difficult to live out and was a false promise to many.

First of all,…. women were not given the same rights as men.
Women had lesser rights and privileges and still struggle sometimes in our country to be seen as equal.
And then there is the issue of slavery.
Those brilliant founders were not blind to the hypocrisy of their idealistic rule of the land with the reality of that institution.
But to avoid a damaging internal political conflict among themselves,…this aspect of IN-equality was ignored.

Not to be too harsh on those men in Philadelphia,…a look at world history, even recently, shows similar things.
Peoples in all cultures seem to have this need to classify one another in terms of rank and then act accordingly.
Status based on heredity,….income,….level of education,…vocations or jobs,…who one associates with,…etc.
We give preferential treatment based on all those things in public policy,….in daily life,….even in religious institutions.
Throughout its history, Christianity has had its own foibles in this area, despite the fact our founder refuted such behaviors.
And viewing world religions, I’ve learned that it was (and still is) pretty common to find this ingrained in belief systems.
In our wanting to be tolerate of everyone, we often forget (or overlook) that just about every other religion endorses caste systems and hierarchies that promote inequality.

What would Jesus say?
Well…what he would say - what HE DID SAY ~ was that such concepts are not from God or pleasing to the eye of God.
It was not just at this last meal that he taught that none of us is greater than the other,……but he did so during his ministry.

But note that what he said that night,…was not so much that you are condemned if you refuse to serve all others in love….
but that if you know the truth of love and servanthood to any and all equally,…..then you will be happier when you do so.
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them”.

The word “blessed” means not just approval by God, but also it means to be ‘happy’.
It feels good - feels right,….when we remove false pretenses and all the status garbage, to kneel down and help someone.
It makes us happier to lower ourselves and give love more than when we egotistically promote ourselves to gain love.
To remove any sense of rank or privilege to serve others makes God,…ourselves,…and those we help,… happy.

Jesus, in this moderate example,…foreshadowed a greater example the next day when he went to the cross.
We can’t say that made him happy in a cheery kind of way.
But it was very much an act of love,… and acts of love are always rewarding,…especially when we sacrifice to do that.
He did not use his status or powers for his benefit but instead, served all equally, through his suffering and the death.
He died for the prince and the pauper,….
the Exec on Wall Street and the homeless on the back street,
the award winning doctor and the imprisoned drug dealer,…
the victims of injustice and the perpetrators of suffering,….
the good and the bad;….the beautiful and the ugly.
for all of us,….equally. Amen.